Oscar de la Renta

Birthplace: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic Awards: Coty American Fashion Critics Award, 1967, 1973 Coty Return Award, 1968 Neiman Marcus Award, 1968 Golden Tiberius Award, 1969

American Printed Fabric Council "Tommy" Award, 1971 Caballera of the Order of Juan Pablo Duarte, 1972 Gran Comandante of the Order of Cristobal Colon, Dominican Republic, 1972

Fragrance Foundation Award, 1978

Crystal Star Award for Design Excellence, 1990

Oscar de la Renta was raised in a middle class family with his mother, father, and seven sisters. At seventeen, de la Renta's father sent him to Madrid to study painting. By 1950, de la Renta, inspired by the fine art work he was exposed to, returned to the Dominican Republic to study art at the National School of Art in Santo Domingo. After two years of studies, de la Renta returned to Spain in 1953 to study at the Academic de San Fernando in Madrid. While in school, de la Renta was exposed to fashion design, and utilized his training as a fine artist to obtain work as an illustrator. In 1955 de la Renta concluded his studies at the Academia de San Fernando, continued to work as a freelance illustrator for Cristobal Balen-ciaga, Carolina Herrera, Ollero and others until he landed a position with Antonio Castillo at Lanvin in 1961.

By the time de la Renta was thirty, he was living in New York City. From 1963 to 1965, he worked on the Elizabeth Arden couture and ready-to-wear collections. In 1965 he accepted a position, and a partnership, with designer Jane Derby. De la Renta and Gerald Shaw bought Jane Derby from Shaw's father and renamed the company Oscar de la Renta, Ltd. In 1973 de la Renta became the head designer and chief executive officer of Oscar de la Renta, Ltd.

De la Renta is primarily known for his evening ensembles. His use of fabrics, such as his drapey chiffons, rich brocades, plush velvets, crisp taffetas, and jeweled, embroidered fabrics, create romantic, feminine garments. De la Renta adorns his designs with his signature ruffled details on necklines and cuffs. The designer also popularized the Gypsy- and Russian-inspired apparel that dominated the 1970s fashions.

Oscar de la Renta designs under three main labels: Oscar de la Renta Studio, Oscar de la Renta Signature, and Oscar de la Renta Couture. He also designs a bridge line of dresses and sportswear through Apparel Group International and the couture and ready-to-wear collections for the Balmain French couture house. De la Renta also launched three perfumes: Oscar de la Renta in 1977, Ruffles in 1983, and Volupte in 1993.

In 1990 de la Renta experienced something most American designers never do—he was given the opportunity to show his ready-to-wear collection in Paris. The first American designer ever afforded this opportunity, he is also the first American, and one of the few non-Parisians, to ever be appointed head designer of a Paris couture house. See also: Jeanne Lanvin.

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